Guy Standing

"Tertiary Time"

Standing, Guy. “Tertiary Time: A Precariat's Dilemma.” Public Culture 25, no.1 (2013): 5-23.

  • toward a progressive politics of time in the midst of “tertiary” society, where most work is service-based
  • a “prelude” on the preciousness of time. “yet we have no politics of time. We have little appreciation of the inequality or inequities of time.” “We need to appreciate that time is a basic asset. … Like any other asset, time is distributed unequally and inequitably.”
  • Greek distinction between labor (non-citizen economy) and work (reproductive activity of citizens), between play and leisure. Adam Smith and Kant's condescension toward service work. Questions the current valuation of labor (in “jobs”) but not other forms of work.
  • “the way time is treated depends on the nature of society and the economic system. In agrarian society, it makes no sense to think of standardized working weeks.” Standardized time, of course, came only with industrialized work.“ — “The clock did not just discipline, as E.P. Thompson so elegantly showed in an essay in 1967; it represented denial of agency. Human agency is the core of decommodification.”
  • “In tertiary society, time is invaded. We are unable to maintain boundaries of activities.” — thus multitasking.
  • “The strongest trend is a growth of 'work-for-labor,' done to enhance 'employability' and to function as a flexible worker. Time in labor may be declining, modestly, but time in work-for-labor is mounting.” Now not just working hours are exploited, but non-working hours. Includes training, doing taxes, ethical reflection about work, waiting for work.
  • “The rich and salariat have relatively strong control over their time, the precariat very little.” The affluent can hire others' time to do certain tasks for them, prioritizing other things.
  • “Those in and out of short-term jobs and unemployment are under direction to perform tasks in seeking jobs and satisfying bureaucrats, and to wait around at beck and call. They are subject to surveillance and must be instantly available, or risk losing benefits” — esp. through means-tested welfare programs.
  • Alongside the “poverty trap,” a “precarity trap,” where “the precariat can easily lose more from taking low-wage jobs than not doing so.”
  • The result is less time for recuperation or political activity or other forms of constructive leisure. “A result is the thinning of democracy, alongside the commodification of politics and politicians.” — “We are under pressure to labor and do more work-for-labor, squeezing out leisure that befits a true citizen.”
  • “we must foster a Slow Time Movement, analogous to the Slow Food Movement.”
  • Also calls for elevating work, not just labor, and not allowing politicians to get away with calls for more jobs. Against the push for work-for-labor, “There is a need to revive agency and construct forms of 'associational freedom' to check the market freedom tyrannizing the precariat.”
  • Argues for a reversal of the industrial labor strategy, which attached benefits of citizenship to labor. Now, labor should be paid only with money, and other kinds of benefits of citizens should be independent of that. Calls for universal basic income.
  • “Today, we need mechanisms to 'thicken' democracy. That is a vital task for progressives. What has this to do with time or economic security? Well, if we stopped making a fetish of labor and jobs, and understood that other forms of work and leisure are just as important and 'productive', then we might turn to efforts to promote them.”
  • Following Pericles, suggests attaching basic income to participation in political activity, such as voting.